Master Jiang 江靜川, my colleague from Hong Kong, has given some simple but valuable advice on Yinzhai Feng Shui in his recent Facebook posting, I think what he said is also applicable to Yangzhai Feng Shui, so I did a quick translation of the important parts of what he wrote to share on my Blog, with my comments in brackets.

一位有功夫的地師要掌握以下三大法則,才算稱職合格 :
一是尋龍點穴(山家功夫),
二是消山納水(理氣立向),
三是形局剪裁(人工補救)。
多者控之,少者補之。
三僚補救三大法訣 :
一不足,担土用,用土制煞可發福。
二不足,種樹木,調補陰陽立建功。
三不足,做圍屋,收接氣脈造形局。
楊公三訣能領悟,代代兒孫可發福。

An accomplished and skilful Feng Shui practitioner needs to master the following three skills:

1) The skill to trace the Dragon (i.e to follow the mountain tops and the valleys to work out the Qi flow of the land) and pinpoint the burial spot (I.e. knowledge in Form School Feng Shui).
2) The skill to calculate the desirable orientations for a site (i.e. knowledge in Compass School Feng Shui – the term used is 消山納水 “to sort out the mountains to obtain water”, that is knowing the Yin and Yang of the sitting and facing).
3) The skill to remedy the deficiencies by man-made means.

(That is he is able to) make use of the sufficient and remedy the insufficient.

The San Liao School (Yang Gong Feng Shui) has three ways to do the remedy:

1) Use earth moving to overcome the deficiency in the landform.
2) Use trees and greenery to remedy the imbalance of Yin and Yang (e.g. light and shade, open and close, etc.).
3) Create an embracing structure to capture the Qi Vein with Form adjustments.

Master Jiang said if one can follow these three Yang Gong recommendations, then every descending generation can prosper.
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I had the good fortune of meeting Prof Wang Qi-Heng 王其亨 in his home three days ago before we flew out of Beijing to Berlin. Prof. Wang is a famous teacher from Tianjin University specialized in researching and teaching the history and philosophy of traditional Chinese architecture. He part wrote and edited one of the best source book on Feng Shui in Chinese called “Research into the Theories of Feng Shui” 風水理論研究, published by the Tianjin University Press (see book cover below). His university department is also responsible for many of the conservation planning around the major historical sites like the Forbidden City and the Ming and Qing Tombs.

During our three-hours meeting I asked him many questions on Feng Shui and architecture, especially about the Qing and the Ming dynasties of which he is an expert. The most memorable one for me was about Yinzhai Feng Shui and my question was, “Do you really think intelligent and capable rulers like the Qing Emperor Qianlong 乾隆皇帝 (1711-1799), would believe that if they bury their ancestors in the best Feng Shui spot, their family would rule forever?” He laughed and replied, “Of course not!”

Then he went on to say that if we research into the historical court documents like he did, then the imperial burial sites were chosen not for selfish gains or un-realistic expectations, but they are in fact imperial site selections and architecture with a strong sense of commemoration in memory of their ancestors, as required by the Confucian Rites.

He followed up by showing me an example in the commemorative tablet erected in the Qing Yu Ling 清裕陵 (Emperor Qianlong’s burial site), where these words were carved in stone:

聖水深巖
Sacred-waters and deep ravines,
靈山翠微
Spirit-mountains and shady retreats,
億年安宅
(We) set down a dwelling for a hundred million years,
築我丕基
(and continue to) build our great foundations.

There was nothing said about tapping into the right kind of earth energy to make the descendants more powerful, richer and happier. It is done to remain them of their heritage and responsibility as a ruler.

Some people actually blamed the Feng Shui of Qianlong’s tomb for the decline of the Qing Dynasty because although he was buried in a Meridian Spot, he choose to face a “Death and Empty Line”, so while his descendants continued to rule another 112 years, they were very mediocre and downright incompetent or died young. It is grossly unfair and downright superstitious to blame Feng Shui and Qianlong on the natural rise and decline of a dynasty and misunderstood the real purpose of Yinzhai Feng Shui.

When I pressed the point, Prof. Wang also pointed out in the official documents, no Feixing calculations were mentioned, the imperial Feng Shui experts selected the sites for burial mainly based on Xingshi 形勢 considerations.

Prof. Wang said the real purpose of a grave or a Mu 墓 is to have a place to admire (pay homage) the ancestors and the character to admire (mu 慕) has the same sound as for a grave although it is written in a different way and this was pointed out by Liu Xi 劉熙 of Eastern Han (25-220AD) in his book “Explaining the Terms and the Burial Rites” 釋名。釋喪制:

墓, 慕也;孝子思慕之處也。
“A grave (has) the same (sound) as to admire, it is a place where a filial son can admire and remember (the dead).”

Prof. Wang said at the same time to bury is to hide from the wind (葬,藏也), to avoid attack by the ants and the worms and flooding by water, rotting the corpse.

Finally he said there is an educated understanding of Feng Shui and an un-educated one (Prof. Wang Yude 王玉德 used the terms “academic” and “folk” Feng Shui to say the same thing), to think that burial in a good Feng Shui spot will bring selfish gains to the descendants is to misunderstand the cultivated way of behaviour in a traditional Chinese society.

Confucian filial piety required a gentleman 君子 to find a good Feng Shui spot to bury, to remember and to pay homage to the dead and not to expect anything in return. Prof. Wang Qi-Heng said this is the real purpose of Yinzhai Feng Shui.

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Throughout Chinese history, many learned scholars, especially the Confucians and the Neo-Confucians like Wang Chong and Zhu Xi, have criticised the false assumptions people have made with Yinzhai Feng Shui, namely that if we bury our parents in an auspicious place, then the dead would help the living to be prosperous via the Earth Qi. This unrealistic expectation is called “Yin Ying” or Hidden Resonance of Feng Shui.

I have made a rough translation below (not word by word but by my own interpretation of the author’s intent) of a scholar by the name of Xiang Qiao, who wrote a common-sense piece about Yinzghai Feng  Shui:

People often asked Xiang Qiao, “Do you believe a good burial site is related to Feng Shui?” and he replied, “To bury one’s parent is an important matter, this is something everyone has to do and to bury them in a safe and sound place is our responsibility. I am also someone’s son, so I must do likewise and find a good Feng Shui place for burial. But to me, the “wind” in Feng Shui refers to the landform that can protect the grave site from the attack of the sha qi wind and the “water” in Feng Shui refers to the landform that keeps the soil dry, so the water would not attack the dead body and make it rot too soon”.

Then the people followed with another question, “If Feng Shui is so important for burial, then do you also believe in the “Yin Ying” of Feng Shui?” and he replied, “We are alive when our Qi is assembled and we die when our Qi is dispersed and when that happens, our body rots and our spirit returns to its origin, there is nothing left to “Yin Ying” the descendants. The situation is not unlike when our parents are alive, they can look after us when they are awake and mindful, but when they are asleep and don’t know that we are in danger, there is no way they can come to our rescue when we need them. If when they are alive but unaware, they cannot help us, how can they continue to do so after they are dead and gone?”

What scholars like Xiang Qiao are saying is Yinzhai Feng Shui is more about respect for the dead and keeping their memories alive, and not about creating false expectations that the dead will continue to help us even when they are no longer able to do so. Let the dead rest in peace and let us fulfill our own destiny.

(Photo by Kristiina M)

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